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7 DIY Natural Skincare Ingredients You Should Never Use and Why

By October 9, 201924 Comments

7 DIY natural skin care ingredients to never useThere are so many dangerous natural DIY skincare remedies all over the Internet! Let’s talk about these so-called “remedies” and why you shouldn’t ever be using them on your face.

In the article before this one, we dove into why some DIY home remedies can ruin your skin and deconstructed a common DIY acne spot treatment as just one example.

The response to that was pretty awesome, so now we are breaking it down even more.

7  DIY Natural Skincare Ingredients You Should Never Use (full strength) on Your Face


1. Raw apple cider vinegar (ACV)

Some blogs will tell you that using full strength ACV as a cleanser or toner for people with acne or hyper-pigmentation is a good idea.

It’s not.

Full strength raw ACV is highly skin irritating and will cause inflammation and burns even after just one use.

It can be used on the skin in low percentages, but never more than 20%.

Raw ACV produces an alkaline ash in the body when taken internally, yet it contains a high amount of acetic acid and remains acidic outside of the body.

It’s so acidic that it makes an effective remedy for burning off skin tags and warts, but continued use at full strength cam cause permanent skin damage to surrounding tissue.

Raw ACV taken internally can help reduce acidity in the body, promote healthy digestion and elimination, reduce inflammation, aid in detoxification, and promote healthy levels of friendly gut bacteria and microflora that indirectly enhance skin health.


2. Sugar, salt, ground up nut shells, or coffee grounds

This is more of a category of kitchen ingredients often mentioned in DIY skincare recipes to use as facial exfoliants.

This group of ingredients are excellent to use in DIY body scrub recipes, but even the finest granules are too rough for the delicate skin on the face.

These types of granules have jagged edges that scratch and actually break the skin and these lacerations may not be visible to the naked eye.

The skin on the body is thicker and can handle the level of abrasion and stimulation brought on by these types of scrubs.

Typically the body is protected from environmental pollutants by clothing, whereas the skin on the face is constantly exposed to a barrage of toxins, microbes, radiation, and other aggressors.

Even though it’s not the most popular notion, I recommend keeping facial exfoliation to a minimum, as repeatedly scrubbing and scratching the skin compromises its barrier functionality, immune response, and wound healing process.

[Read: The Best Ways to Exfoliate]


3. Baking soda

Baking soda is commonly used for cleansing just about anything from hubcaps to hair, but it should not be used full strength as an acne treatment or skin lightener.

Using a high concentration of an alkali like baking soda can have an even worse effect that using acids on the skin.

The skin’s pH typically ranges from 4.5 to 5.5—it’s slightly acidic.

Applying an acid with a pH of 2 is less dangerous than applying something that’s completely alkaline, since the skin is already slightly acidic.

Baking soda paste has a pH of 9 to 11 (14 is 100% alkaline), depending on how much water is added (which is neutral at 7).

Because the skin is slightly acidic, applying an ingredient with a high pH is even more damaging than applying an acid of equivalent potency.

I never recommend higher than a 6% concentration of baking soda in a product that’s meant to remain on the skin or 12% in a product that gets washed off.


4. Lemons or Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is one of the oldest home remedies for lightening freckles, age spots, and melasma; and for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The thought behind its use makes sense—it’s high in Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which is an antioxidant and citric acid (an alpha hydroxy acid commonly used in skincare products).

Using lemon juice actually makes conditions it is intended to treat, worse!

Like raw ACV, lemon juice is highly acidic and can cause inflammation, irritation, and compromise the skin’s barrier function.

Ascorbic acid is increases the skin’s photosensitivity and increases the risk of sunburn, skin cancer, hyper pigmentation, and premature aging.

However, drinking warm lemon water every morning has similar health benefits as raw ACV, and can be very good for you.


5. Crushed up vitamins

Since most natural skincare products contain vitamins like C, E, and other antioxidants, many people think that crushing up the supplement versions of these and making them into a skincare product or spot treatment will carry the same benefits.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Most vitamins remain intact when in pill or powdered form, but become highly unstable and oxidize when mixed with water or other ingredients.

So they actually cause free radical damage to the skin, which is the opposite of what they’re intended to do.

That’s super bad news for your skin!

Since dietary supplements are meant to be ingested, digested, and metabolized, they are formulated in a way that’s appropriate for those processes rather than for topical use and would need to be formulated to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.

Vitamin E in the form of tocopheryl acetate is oil soluble and has a better chance of penetrating through the skin’s lipid matrix.

Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid is water soluble and must be specially formulated to be able to penetrate into the skin.

Applying crushed up vitamins to the skin can quickly burn the skin.

In some cases damage can occur faster than the person is able to remove it from the skin.

If you plan on using vitamins topically, you must purchase them from a cosmetic ingredient supplier who sells ingredients that have been formulated tested for safe use on the skin.


6. Hydrogen peroxide

While 3% hydrogen peroxide is great for debriding and disinfecting wounds, it’s not meant for daily, undiluted application.

Repeated use of hydrogen peroxide (and benzoyl peroxide for that matter) on the skin can cause irritant and allergic reactions, blisters, and inflammation.

While it is effective at lightening dark spots, the lightening effect is hard to control since you can’t target individual melanin pigment cells and there’s no way to measure how deep the chemical reaction that removes the pigment occurs or “turn off” its effects.

As a result, you could end up with permanent hypo-pigmentation (lack of pigment) or vitiligo in certain areas.


7. Raw Eggs

I’ve seen remedies using only the egg yolk, only the whites, or a mixture of the two as a mask for firming and tightening the skin and refining large pores.

Raw eggs included in recipes for firming, anti-aging creams without a proper preservative, is extremely scary.

Using raw eggs as a single ingredient, immediate use treatment is less risky than mixing it with other ingredients in a formulation, because at least you don’t have to worry about preservation (as you’d have to do with any food ingredient in order for it to be shelf stable).

You DO have to worry about salmonella, listeria, staphylococcus aureus, avian influenza, and other food borne pathogens.

Remember, the skin absorbs up to 66% of what you apply to it topically. So just because you’re not eating the raw eggs, doesn’t mean you can’t still get sick from applying them to your skin.

I want to assure you that you don’t have to be a chemist, clinical herbalist, or aromatherapist to make great products—if I can do it, you most certainly can.

But just like any art or discipline, there are a few basics and a few guidelines that you need to understand before you begin—and certainly before you blog about it to the entire world.

What do you think about this list of “never” ingredients? Has this made you rethink your DIY recipes? Let us know in the comments below!

Rachael Pontillo

Author Rachael Pontillo

Rachael Pontillo is the bestselling author of the book Love Your Skin, Love Yourself and co-author of The Sauce Code. She’s a holistic skincare and nutrition entrepreneur, award-winning coach, product formulator, speaker, and educator. Rachael combines different holistic modalities to help people with skin conditions and self-image issues heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually so they can live their lives with joy and confidence. As a mentor, she helps professionals in the aesthetics and nutrition fields build their businesses and truly serve their clients in meaningful and sustainable ways. Rachael is the creator of the popular skincare and lifestyle blog Holistically Haute™, as well as the online course, Create Your Skincare™.

More posts by Rachael Pontillo

Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • Jonita says:

    Thank you for sharing an important piece of information. Much needed for me.

  • I love this blog so much! This really helped me realize how important it is to make sure you’re using the right products for your skin. Nice content as always!!

  • This is a great article. Thank you

  • Taimy says:

    So the question is what to use for DIY face products? I was looking for some exfoliating facial scrub but everything seems to have something you recommend not to use. Any advise?

  • While everything you said is very informative, with proper research in the dosage, chemistry and understanding the root of the problem with what you are making a solution for including understanding the scientific name even if you got to Google up the Latin and greek translation to comprehend the effect like I did you can still DIY with Apple cider vinagar and baking soda creating sodium acetate which can in fact be a buffer for skincare and a tonic among other uses. I highly recommend taking those two off the list because it is just too useful.

    • Kristen Arnett's GBT says:

      You sound like you really know what you’re doing, and in that case this article applies less to you. As the article says in the intro, it’s really aimed at the regular person who may try one of the DIY recipes floating around the internet, that doesn’t discuss proper proportions and combinations that are safe. Both of these ingredients can be effective, but not if someone doesn’t know what they’re doing with them.

    • Ana Ferreira says:

      I recommend oatmeal and organic milk. Oatmeal isn’t harsh on skin and organic milk has glicolic acid which is a chemical exfoliant.

      For scrub this is the only good option but the best thing to do is to buy a chemichal exfoliant [drugstore brands like ordinary and the inkey list] since it’s formulated for your skin and is gentle and will do the job.

  • Jesse says:

    Please provide some source, one report of salmonella absorbing thriugh the skin. Dont you think this would be a problem for bakers and people handling raw egg? And I have eaten thousands of raw eggs(topically too), sashimi, oysters etc and never had so much as a stomach ache. Stop spreading nonsense.

    • Hello Jesse. Thank you for your rather blunt comment. My husband is an experienced (meaning 30+ years) executive chef and with multiple food science and sanitation certifications, who is where I first got the warning from regarding skin contact with raw eggs from. Second, here is a quote from dermatologist, Dr. Doris Day, on the subject: “You have to be careful with the egg white mask because egg whites sometimes have salmonella, and if you end up ingesting it by accident, you can actually get salmonella,” from this CNN article. While risk of infection is small, it is still a risk, and when there are multiple alternatives to a risk, we always recommend NOT putting yourself at risk. The CDC also acknowledges that only about 30% of actual salmonella cases are documented, because many people don’t seek medical help for their symptoms. The fact that you personally have not gotten salmonella does not mean that what I wrote is nonsense–it simply means that you are lucky. Further, this is a space where we promote respectful conversation and a helpful tone. Please keep that in mind when commenting in the future.

    • Ingrid says:

      So, does this mean that it is OK to use a recipe for a diluted ACV toner – the regular one found and also described by dermatologists is 1 part ACV to 4 parts water. – Is this OK?

      • Kristen Arnett says:

        Yes! If ACV is diluted it’s fine. In this article it explicitly states that using it at full strength is what’s so problematic. Most people don’t dilute nearly enough and think “the stronger, the better.”

  • Ben says:

    Very interesting article. I wasn’t aware about the uses and benefits of these ingredients. These ingredients work wonderfully for a variety of skin problems.

  • Paul says:

    Hi Rachel. Out of desperation, clogged pores, I tried baking soda based on some home remedy website. Before reading your article, used it twice for about 2 minutes on a small area and now have lightened skin in that area. How long do you think it might take for it to come back to normal? Thanks, Paul

  • Ricki Jones says:

    Thank you! What a wonderful post. I see so many people online asking about skin care remedies, and they are often told to use many of the ingredients listed above. You can still create great DIY skin care products, you just need to know where to look and what to use.

    For natural ingredients, I tend to buy from RainShadow Labs:
    They have a wide selection of natural ingredients, as well as a broad range of skin care products. Mainly a private label and wholesale manufacturer, RainShadow’s product are really great.

    In regards to this post, everyone should be very careful in what they put on their skin. Some things that may present benefits can still pose a threat to the health of your skin. Do your research! Again, great post.

  • Toni says:

    If I want to make a diy scrub with baking soda do you have a recipe?I heard mixing it with coconut oil is good but I don’t know measurements.

    • Hi Toni, I don’t have a recipe for a scrub with baking soda since it’s not an ingredient I particularly like using on the skin (which it was why it was on this list), but if you do use it I would follow the above recommendations to not exceed 12% concentration on a product that gets washed off.

  • Amy says:

    Eep! I have been using raw ACV as a toner for months and to be honest my skin has never been smoother or as clear! I follow straight up with pure coconut oil. I also use raw ACV on my hair as conditioner and haven’t had any ill effect… Little bit concerned now!

  • Starrie says:

    Thank you for this very helpful article. Definitely learned a lot. Although I haven’t personally tried putting these ingredients in my face, I can now prevent from doing these mishaps, especially the egg white face mask and lemon cleanser. Does that also mean lemon for lightening body scars is also not advisable?

  • Lisa Bell says:

    Very helpful. Thank you!!!

  • Great advice!! Thank you!!! 🙂

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